We often hear from treatment plants that they want to jar test, they know they should be jar testing, but they just can't seem to justify the cost of the equipment.

Granted , a good, dependable six-station jar tester isn't cheap. The price of a complete set-up can be $2,000 or more. In many cases, that can be a big chunk of a small system's annual equipment budget.

As a result, the purchase of a jar tester is frequently put off until next year, or "some day". Sometimes funding never comes.

What many operators fail to realize is that jar testing, in most cases, saves money. And in many cases, a lot of money. So much money, in fact, that the initial cost of jar testing equipment is often recovered in less than one year.

A jar test is conducted to determine the accurate dosage of alum or polymer (coagulants) to add to the water to trigger efficient flocculation. (Weather conditions, pH and temperature are just a few of the many variables which effect coagulant dosages).

In many plants where jar testing is not done, there is a tendency to dose a little extra, "just to be sure". This overdosing can result in on-going, unnecessarily high coagulant expenses.

An example of just such a situation was recently documented by Larry Rader, Program Manager for the West Virginia Rural Water Association:


The operator of a small system (700-800 customers) attended one of Larry's jar test training workshops. After learning the procedure, the operator returned to his plant and began jar testing daily. The results were both instantaneous and dramatic: Alum dosage went from 127 pounds per day to 53 pounds per day; lime dosage dropped from 42 pounds to under 5 pounds per day. This translated into a 58% reduction in alum usage and an 88% decrease in lime consumption.

The system experienced a $1,700 savings during the first three months. Their annual alum and lime expenses had been in excess of $11,000: They are now averaging under $4,000. That's a savings of $7,000 per year, or a 60% reduction in cost!

Larry reported that the town clerk thought something was amiss. They hadn't purchased chemicals in over two months, and their suppliers were calling to inquire as to why they had lost the business!

In short, this particular system saved enough money in the first three months to pay for their jar tester in full. The ensuing savings can be used to help fund other much-needed equipment or plant improvement projects.

As importantly, the quality of the water improved!

This is but one example of the impact jar testing can have. And, while dramatic, it is not an isolated case. Many small systems are in a position to experience similar savings.

All surface water systems should conduct jar tests. Those convinced that they can't afford to, need to reconsider. They may find that they can't afford not to.


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